Lafayette's new 120,000-square-foot terminal will officially open Thursday, but local and state officials celebrated the project's completion with a ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday.
The Lafayette Regional Airport terminal project, which cost around $150 million, has been about five years in the making. The terminal replaces the old terminal, which opened in 1930 and will be demolished for future expansion.
"What you're looking at...is a significant undertaking," Gov. John Bel Edwards said. "That's an investment in infrastructure that's going to improve quality of life, economic development opportunities, you name it."
Edwards called the terminal "another jewel in Louisiana's system of airports."
The project has been viewed as a substantial investment in the economic development of Lafayette and the Acadiana region. The project used money from federal agencies and state funds, as well a temporary 1-cent sales tax passed in 2015 to provide matching, local funds for construction.
The new terminal is twice the size of the one it's replacing, which will be demolished as part of this expansion project. LFT Executive Director Steven Picou previously said bids will be received for demolition likely in the first quarter of 2022.
The project includes five new jet bridges, roadways, ramps, about 200 more parking spaces and a quick turnaround area (QTA) for rental cars. The terminal will have two screening lines with the potential to add a third.
Passengers will enter the building under a colored-glass canopy over its three entrances that mirrors the Acadian flag waving in the wind. They will check in and drop off their luggage at a nearby ticket counter, behind which is an inline screening system that takes bags to the Transportation Security Administration.
Visitors will be able to get food and drinks on both sides of the security checkpoint, as well.
The room with state-of-the-art screening technology has space for another bag line, a theme across the new terminal. There's space for more gates and even airlines.
The project was completed on budget and without any debt. The construction also had minimal delays, despite hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Carlos Harvin, the director of minority affairs for Lafayette Consolidated Government, praised the voters of Lafayette Parish for approving the tax that allowed the terminal to be completed.
"It shows that if we trust one another and work together, miracles can happen," Harvin said.
Winsome Lenfert, the deputy associate administrator for airports at U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, called the project "a very important milestone" for the Acadiana region.
Lenfert said when the project was brought to her attention she noted that it was an aggressive construction, but she said it was impressive that local residents raised more than $30 million for the terminal. The FAA awarded LFT around $59 million for the project.
"The LFT terminal project delivers environmental stewardship, sustainability and accessibility, while providing jobs and economic development for the community of Lafayette," Lenfert said.
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The new terminal uses an enhanced HVAC system, LED lighting and a special glass that automatically tints as the angle of the sun changes, which helps control glare, natural light and make the building more environmentally-friendly.
The project also used close to 50 disadvantaged businesses during construction, which means the businesses are "owned and controlled by a socially and economically disadvantaged individual," according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: Lafayette Regional Airport terminal is opening Thursday